January 30, 2006

That's Our Chafee

Justin Katz

To be honest, I've been a little surprised at the intense interest in Senator Chafee's vote on Alito. From conservatives' standpoint, the only intriguing turn of events would have been a "yes" vote on the nomination and the questions that it would have raised about whether Chafee might make further efforts to court us.

What Chafee actually stated in today's announcement — and it isn't but so surprising — is that, no, he isn't particularly interested in solidifying support among Rhode Island's divided Republicans. One can find a measure of sad humor musing that this attitude is precisely what the national GOP likes about Chafee for the next election cycle, but otherwise, the episode is just another instance of our own Linc Chafee doing what he does best: disappointing constituents to his political right.

So, as much as I'd like to reward Kathryn Lopez for directing NRO Corner readers to Anchor Rising for "RI backlash," I'm not sure that there's much lashing to go back to. Whether related to the war in Iraq or the Senator's wishy-washy partisanship or some other matter, there probably weren't that many on the Rhode Island right who had yet to have their "I'd rather vote for Patrick Kennedy" moments. Apart from a few resurgent squawks, the only backlash that remains to be seen will come in the form of our own "no" votes.

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The truth is folks, Chafee takes all of us in the Republican Party for granted. To him, we are irrelevant, just like he's made himself irrelevant in the Senate by waiting until his vote doesn't really matter. I'll actually admit to having voted for Chafee in 2000. There's no way I'm making the same mistake twice.

It's like a guy who slaps around his girlfriend, but has her convinced that he really loves her. No matter how much or how often he slaps her around, she keeps going back to him, only to keep getting treated the same way.

Honest folks, when's enough, enough? What is comes down to is self-respect. Get some.

Posted by: Will at January 30, 2006 8:48 PM

You're correct that Chafee is taking Republicans for granted, but we're still left in a position where he is key to keeping a GOP majority. Without the GOP majority, Alito would never have made it to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Rock, meet Mr. Hard Place.

Posted by: Anthony at January 30, 2006 9:48 PM

Does anyone else agree with me that the White House gave Chafee a pass to vote against Alito?

I'm theorizing here, but my guess is that once the WH knew they had the votes to get Alito across, they told Chafee to go ahead and vote "no" if that was what he thought he needed to do for re-election.

Obviously, they are more concerned about growing the Republican Senate majority than they are about one particular vote on this nomination.

Posted by: brassband at January 30, 2006 10:14 PM

In short, YES! He most certainly got a "pass," otherwise he never would have taken as long as he did. He could have come to the exact same conclusion a week ago, but waited until a majority of senators publically declared for Alito. I have no doubt it at all.

As for the other comment, Chafee is "key" to nothing at the moment. He has made himself irrelevant. We have 55 GOP senators. Only 1 reliably votes the wrong way, whenever he can get away with it.

"Without the GOP majority, Alito would never have made it to the Supreme Court." This is a hypothetical. Alito would get in anyway. It's the next one I'm curious about.

Posted by: Will at January 30, 2006 10:38 PM


you're right. it would be a waste of energy to contact either the national or state parties. It is seemingly clear they do not believe Laffey can win and that they aren't concerned with unifying the party in Rhode Island.

However, I do believe Chafee's decision will cause more people to volunteer for Laffey's campaign than any of the Democratic candidates. Chafee struck a cord, but I doubt he believes the ripple will be more than a pebble dropped in the ocean.

Posted by: donroach at January 31, 2006 5:12 AM

I don't know. I've been vacillating on the primaries, but this put me over the line. There is nothing the least little bit controversial about Alito, and I'm ashamed for the Democrats who vote him down. Why would I have any respect for a Republican who does so?

It seems a cinch the Republicans will keep a majority without Rhode Island, so what the hell. I'd rather be represented by an honest D.

Posted by: ballottra at January 31, 2006 8:45 AM

How the heck does Chafee help the GOP keep its Senate majority? If Chafee were the 50th Republican, I would wager that he would switch to the Democrats to give them control and get himself a chairmanship. Chafee has already said that if control of the Senate depended on his affiliation that he would consider switiching to the Democrats, and his behavior and voting record makes clear that he'd be more comfortable on that side of the aisle.

The GOP would actually be better off if Chafee switched to the Democrats, since Chafee takes up "Republican" slots in three committeed and thereby prevent the GOP from having the two-member advantage in such committees to which the party is entitled. See http://auh2orepublican.blogspot.com/2005/08/what-to-do-about-insufferable-senator.html

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at January 31, 2006 10:37 AM

I'm a RI Republican who will never pull the lever for Chafee under any circumstances. Couyldn't do that and look at myself in the mirror.

If the choices are Chafee or a reasonably palatable Democrat, I'll vote for the Democrat. If it's Chafee vs. a Democrat I can't bring myself to vote for either, I'll take a page out of Linc Chafee's own book, and write in his dad's name.

Posted by: Pseudolus at January 31, 2006 1:08 PM

What good is a majority if Chafee never votes with it??

Posted by: Brian at January 31, 2006 2:03 PM

As I've admitted to a few people, I actually voted for Chafee in 2000. That despite actually knowing his opponent, as well as the fact that he was pro-life, like me. I voted based on his family name, that (R) next to his name, and little more. I put politics, before adherence to principle. I have deeply regreted it ever since.

Fortunately, I've since learned the error of my ways. I will do whatever I can to make sure Chafee does not get another term to shame Rhode Island and our state's Republican Party. Gratefully, Laffey, while admittedly not perfect, is at least a great enough alternative worthy of our support. It has gotten to the point that I am all to willing to risk losing the seat, for the hope that Laffey represents to real Republicans. However, as I believe that Laffey would be the strongest candidate, that isn't something that bothers me. If Laffey weren't an option and it came down to a two man race between Chafee and the Prince of Darkness, and I held the deciding vote, I'd really have to think long and hard about it (or, as I was planning to do before Laffey entered the race, write-in the late Sen. John Chafee's name instead).

Posted by: Will at February 1, 2006 3:32 AM

The GOP majority is rather thin and like it or not, Chafee helps keep the majority. I can understand why Republicans are frustrated with him. I'm frustrated with him, too. But don't suggest that it would be better to have a Democrat hold the seat. Chafee may "take up" committee slots, but at least those committees are chaired by Republicans..xand generally speaking, Republicans committed to the President's agenda.

Does anyone really think that Bush would rather have Chafee in office than a conservative? Of course not. But every poll taken so far shows Laffey getting his head handed to him in a general election.

Writing the RNC, NRSC or the White House isn't going to change their position. You can blame them for supporting an incumbent against a candidate more in line with the President's views and criticize them for airing ads against Laffey but the reality is that the ball is in Laffey's court. He can narrow the gap in the polls and raise lots of $$$. Laffey is the master of his own destiny.

The national Republican Party's job is move the Republican agenda forward by keeping itself as the majority party. And to date, that is what it has been doing: its job.

Deep down, I suspect that Laffey knows this.

Posted by: Anthony at February 1, 2006 5:01 PM

More of the same from Anthony.

Ok, we already discussed electability, and once Laffey is behind by 9 points instead of 10 points in a West poll, you will back Laffey.

As to the other points, the first rule of the Repub. Senate charter is to support incumbants no matter what, period (it has nothing to do with electability). Second, to lose the Senate majority, the Repubs would have to lose a net 6 seats, this is not going to happen, it is so unlikely that even Lord Shedlon said in the ProJo he didn't think the Demos could take the Senate in 2006. Third, Chafee by being a Repub on these committees which are 10 to 8 inhibits the Republican agenda. He can swing his vote and make it 9 to 9. He nearly screwed up the Bolton nomination, and he killed a Republican bill on oil refineries by voting with the Demos...remember he told Inhofe he has to keep a perfect record with the enviromentalists so he couldn't support the bill.

Oh Anthony, when will you stop rationalizing your support for Chafee...deep down you know Chafee has to go.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at February 2, 2006 8:12 PM